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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2005 Aug;30(2):123-31.

Symptom distress in patients attending an outpatient palliative radiotherapy clinic.

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  • 1Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program, Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Center, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Patients with advanced cancer are often polysymptomatic. Different symptoms occur with varying frequency, intensity, and impact. Despite the high prevalence of symptoms in this population, reports of symptomatology in palliative outpatients have been limited. We report the symptom distress in metastatic cancer patients attending an outpatient palliative radiotherapy clinic. Patients referred for palliative radiotherapy for symptom control to the Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program (RRRP) were asked to rate symptom distress using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) at the time of initial consultation. Patient demographics, cancer history, disease status, and analgesic consumption during the previous 24 hours were recorded. Between January 1999 and January 2002, 1,296 patients were seen at the RRRP and consented to participate in the study. Mean symptom distress rates ranged from 1.41 to 5.04. Fatigue, poor sense of well-being, pain, and poor appetite were the highest scored symptoms consecutively. Patients with poorer performance status (KPS < or = 60) had significantly higher symptom distress scores for all nine symptoms (P < 0.001). We conclude that the symptoms of metastatic cancer, including pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, poor appetite, and sense of well-being, are common among patients attending outpatient palliative clinics. Symptom assessment tools, such as the ESAS, allow for the identification of symptoms and their severity. The appropriate regimen for management of pain and symptoms in metastatic cancer patients can then be planned.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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